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Wednesday, Dec 01, 2021
Outlook.com
Opinion

A Thousand Year Rattle

India-Pakistan war-talk is now done by the armies, backed by a jingoistic media

A Thousand Year Rattle
Border Tactic | Photograph by AP
A Thousand Year Rattle
outlookindia.com
2017-06-03T11:26:18+05:30

If there was a slur today in Pakistan, besides being called a liberal, it is to suggest engagement with India or appearing as weak. Actually, liberalism is also termed as being pro-India. Incidentally, the situation on the other side of the border echoes this perception. While political governments have remained fairly restrained on both sides, the war narrative has acquired hype. Both India and Pakistan have used their fourth arm—the media—to inspire their common man to want a confrontation.

Actually, bilateral tension tends to increase every time both states are at a similar confidence level and there is reduced clarity regarding thresholds—will the adversary blink or you? In many ways, the times are a reminder of an almost similar uncertainty during the 1980s. There were several events spaced out through the decade that kept tension high and fear of war alive. Then, it started off with the rumour of an Indian plan to attack Pakistan’s Kahuta Research Laboratories, just like Israel had bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak in June 1981. Islamabad responded by spreading a message that it would react by bombing India’s nuclear facilities at Trombay. This was then followed by the Siachen conflict. Although both countries had eyes on the glacier, in 1984 India succeeded in occupying the glacier, and that turned it into the highest war zone. Then there was operation Brasstacks by India in 1986 which, though interpreted incorrectly by a particular group in Rawalpindi GHQ as a premonition to war, did indicate a plan to cut off North Pakistan from the South across the main artery in Sindh. In response, the Pakistan army carried out its own exercise in 1989—Operation Zarbe Momin—that was meant to test the new military strategy of offensive-defence, which has partially worked as a countermeasure to Brasstacks. Despite that, the exercise did not impress many domestically or int­ernationally; it gave ideas that were applied after conditions in the Kashmir valley deteriorated in 1989, leading to the beginning of a new generation of militancy and tension. This was also the period when the bilateral conflict started to turn from being simply territorial to ideological. Though events like General Zia-ul Haq’s cricket diplomacy provide temporary respite, tension remained high throughout the decade.

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